With the mobile standard 5G Germany should catch up with its fast Internet backlog. Already in the coming year, the first frequencies are to be auctioned.
But consumer advocates warn that many customers will not benefit, especially those who live in rural areas.
By Markus Balser and Benedikt Müller, Berlin / Dusseldorf
The hope for faster mobile communications consists of a number and a letter: 5G. According to the coalition agreement of the Federal Government, the new standard should catapult Germany to the top of the world in digital infrastructure. 5G is expected to transmit data up to 20 times faster than the current LTE network. Above all, it allows connected devices to communicate in near real time. After all, autonomous cars will be driving through Germany in just a few years, patients will be monitored digitally in every corner of the country, and industrial robots will give each other orders – without dead spots, of course.
But just in the crucial phase of the introduction, doubts increase. The Federal Network Agency wants to set the rules for the new standard on 26 November; The auctioning of the first frequencies is scheduled to commence next year. Already on Monday, the authority wants to send their final proposal to their advisory board. This determines for years which offers customers can expect.
Consumer advocates fear that the interests of customers in the auction will fall by the wayside. "Consumers continue to threaten poor quality and high prices," says Klaus Müller, head of the Federation of Consumer Organizations. Germany has a lot of catching up to do. "We rank at lower quality and price at the top third," he says. "That needs to change."
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So far, the Federal Network Agency is planning specifications for mobile network expansion, according to which network operators must supply at least 98 percent of households nationwide with at least 100 megabits per second by the end of 2022. "What sounds good, however, means in the area only about 70 percent supply," warns Müller. So it was clear: "The less profitable for telecom companies rural areas remain on the track again." Dead spots and consumer frustration are inevitable. "We therefore demand from the government to intervene and enforce a coverage of the area of the country," says Müller.
Currently, three major network operators are sharing the local mobile market: O2, Deutsche Telekom and Vodafone. In order to meet the requirements for network coverage, it should now suffice if at least one provider offers its customers a fast network in each region. The other customers would have nothing of it. Although the state wants to oblige the providers that they must share at least along federal and rural roads and waterways their radio masts together. A so-called national roaming – so such a duty for the whole of Germany – is not provided. In the process, supply gaps could be closed, consumer advocates criticized: "The providers should cooperate here."